tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 6, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm PST
from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. a conversation with oliver stone and a look at his series on american history along with a professor peter kuznick. thoughts tonight on the final hours of this presidential campaign and some historical perspective on this year's race. give we are glad you joined us. a conversation with oliver stone and peter kuznick coming up. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: we are just hours away from polls opening on the east coast. it could be a long night. only time will tell how this raised will turn out in history, but history is. we want to bring you a unique project from oliver stone. the two have teamed up for an unprecedented showtime series called the untold history of the
united states. the show kicks off on showtime and also features his companion botook. first of preview of the untold history of the united states. >> roosevelt made his solos move yet. the stakes have rarely been higher in a presidential election, and roosevelt shows his secretary of agriculture as his running mate. wallace had been at the nerve center in sawing off the perils of the great depression, easing the way of government subsidies with farmers to stay in business by cutting back on production. wallace provided food stamps.
he instituted programs for land use planning and soil conservation. wallace spoke out strongly against the building up of false and racial theories and review the hitler policy in germany. -- and criticized the hitler policy in germany. tavis: let me start with politics. i am glad we have got to shows. there is a lot to talk about with regard to the text and the showtime series. i thought i read that you hoped obama would win. tell me what you expect tomorrow and why you hope the president will pull this off. >> i am thinking about from 1940 until now.
just given the relatively impressive agenda versus the aggressive agenda, the united states has to go forward. it is trying to do something to reform itself, and he is our only hope. there is not much shift to the left, but when we feel the urge there is some hope. >> why do we believe there is some hope and when you believe both parties are bought by big banks? >> i believe the second term changes, and i think john f. kennedy ran on that, and he knew it would give him oxygen. obama needs the second term. i think he will be stronger against republicans.
>> i think he got some wind from the occupied movement. i think he learned it is not going to work. he is doing more things we want him to do. >> whoever wins is not going to win with a mandate. tell me why i should not believe things are going to be more divided in the next four years than they were in the past. >> the best thing you could hope for is something divided rather than the republicans could hope to do. there is one that said the best thing is to repeal the 20th- century. we are talking about reactionary
policies if romney gets in there. any of them are going to be worse than obama. he is going to hopefully follow through on pulling u.s. troops out of afghanistan, and maybe he is going to do some other initiatives. we like his speech where he calls for nuclear abolition. it is an important issue, and we want to see him pushed out forward. it is going to be a divided government. the danger is having republicans in all three branches, reporting people to the supreme court. then we are going to be in trouble. >> it would depend on which one showed up. the same could be said about president obama. he does not follow through on a lot of what he says.
>> the trick is what we do. as obama said, he is going to have to be forced to do the right thing, and we have let him down on some things. as the anti-war movement has not relieved reemerge. the occupied movement gets a certain amount of hope. the right has done a good job of putting pressure on the certainly, but even now, on people to move them in a more reactionary direction. >> what this book does is tell some very hard truths. what kind of troops did you want to have come out in this campaign that neither got around to talking about?
>> i am thinking about the atomic bomb. it makes us set the agenda for the world. if you see these debates it is all about america being strong. it is a very narrow point of view in terms of history. america learns to be one of the many countries and to find its way to cooperate with people and to bring global peace that could bring great prosperity. that is the great lesson from history. we are not paying attention. tavis: one thing you talk about is this notion of american exceptionalism, that we have always been taught and we have heard again from both sides of the campaign.
>> if we are a strong people, why do we always have to hear how great we are? where does this come from? after the war, we thought we won. that is the first myth. frankly, of russia won it. secondly common and and and and now we have the atomic bomb. new -- secondly, we have the atomic bomb. these are myths we explode, but what results is this believe we are always in the right, and it has gotten worse from generation to generation. tavis: if oliver is right and we engage in this self love,
what makes you think that of bowdon -- a book that they are going to want to digest that? >> you do not think it is going to change the world? we just want to start a conversation. we think people in the united states have not studied their history. the national report card, most americans think the united states is sufficient -- is deficient in math and science. high school seniors are weakest in u.s. history, and the public in general knows very little u.s. history. tavis: what makes you think we are ready for that conversation now. >> the united states is in a transitional time. we cannot dictate all over the world. we are just in the process of losing two major wars.
it is a terrible war. if the united states gets involved in another war, we should have our heads examined, so people are starting to rethink this idea of the united states being super power. it is not working. we cannot afford it anymore. he says we are not going to cut any of our defense spending. part of it is a necessity. >> you made a point that we do not know anything about our history. you said two things. number one, it depends who is history we talk about. there is a phrase, you call it history. we call it his story. so much of what i take from
reading the book is that we are never got anywhere near this level of history and in the course work. anywhere else for that matter. who is it you were talking about, and what you make of the fact of we do not get taught anywhere near this type of history in our history class? >> history is a matter of interpretation. you have to start with certain facts, and we are beginning with presenting facts that people do not know, presenting evidence, and then we are using that to build an interpretation. it is from not the standpoint of slaveholders or big capitalists, not from the standpoint of imperialists, but from the standpoint of the victims. we argued there are a lot of folks out there and libraries full of folks that talk about
how great the united states is, a master narrative now this vision of dominance all over the world, and we are trying to challenge that. we are telling a different story. we are telling a story of empire from the point of the victims, of domestic policy from the people who are not the winners. >> this is obviously a college level, but on high school student could understand it. my doctor is in a private school, and she gets a great education. the books are wrong. some of them are beautifully done, but some of the basic information about for example, why we had to drop the atomic bomb on japan, is dead wrong. >> what you say to someone who has not picked up this book yet, but they censuses anti-american rhetoric -- a sense this is
anti-american rhetoric? >> this has been fact checked by corporate fact checkers and a third set from showtime. this is facts. our interpretation is different. this is definitely hold up. tavis: i was trying to flip the page. first of all, in the introduction, we write this book as the curtain slowly draws down on the american empire. that is how you start the text. >> yes. >> that is our perspective on this. tavis: the curtain is going down? >> that is why he is shifting to the pacific, because he is
trying to fight the rise of china. years ago doesn't chinese per capita income was 4% of the united states. now it is 9%. the united states had been the biggest trading partner with every country in asia. now china is the biggest trading partner with every country in asia. china is doing a lot of things right. china is investing many times as much money in infrastructure as the united states. the europeans out of china for a bailout, not the united states. -- the europeans asked china for a bailout, not the united states. >> it is not us versus them. you do not have to fight. it is not one or two. it is a global community.
there are reasonable region regional powers. do not discount russia. there are a lot of resources in all of these countries, especially africa, so what needs to happen is a global understanding. i believe the united states can work as a partner. who cares if we are number one any more? if you are not number one, you are not. mean?does number one reaso tavis: how much of this is fundamentally about american imperialism? or the notion of? >> it is the mindset. i think it has the most to do with it. woodrow wilson was saying stuff about we are the savior of the
world, so there has always been this puritanism in our thinking, this concept that america is exceptional in its own way. we are human beings. if anything, it is a global world, and we can interact. we must get over this complex of superiority. >> you are right. a big part of the story is american imperialism, and the flip side is building up national security at home. were we going to get out of the depression, there were two ways to deal with that. one is to raise the standard of living at home so people can consume more. the other is to go overseas to find markets. the united states are going overseas, and we begin to build our empire. we build our empire in the
philippines, especially in the spanish-american war, and what do we do with? we slaughter people. that is a crucial turning point, because that is where they look at trying to change. it goes against our tradition. it goes against our republic, and we see a gradual dilution of liberties and also an expansion of a militaristic mindset, which is a flip side of empire. tavis: i am glad you said that. to my mind there are at least three overarching themes as they go through this text. one of them is militaristic, because dr. king talked about three evils, and one of his
three evils is militarism, and during his lifetime he called the united states the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. let's start with this notion of militarism. i want to go back to this last debate about foreign policy, and i do not want to talk about the differences between obama and romney on foreign policy. i read so much commentary from people who were struck by how many times romney said, i agree with the president on this. we know because we follow these issues every day. the republicans have had no problem on domestic policy, but they do agree with a lot of what he has done because he has continued a lot of bush policies, but what does it say to the american voter in a debate about foreign policy you have to people who on a lot of
stuff agree? >> one commentator said they mentioned afghanistan 40 something times, and they never mentioned in europe. there is lack of global comprehension, and it is about power. are we still strong? no. he is saying, vote for me. i can provide security. i did not ask for security. this fear is advance. tavis: you may not have asked for a cut, but every american has said his goal is to keep america safe. >> keeping the public stage is different from what we are doing. we are not in afghanistan to keep the american people say. we said we were trying to stop out kind after 9-11, but there are somewhere between -- to stop al qaeda after 9-11, but they
are still there. we are spending $2 billion for every al qaeda person in afghanistan. what kind of craziness is that? is that keeping america states? that is the point we are making about romney and obama. before obama took office he met with historians who went around the room to give advice. they all said, do not get involved in afghanistan. he knew what a mistake this was. he knew about vietnam, and he did it anyway. foreign policy has been largely bipartisan going back to the post world war ii period. both parties have pursued the notion of american empire. you have exceptions, as in kennedy in the last year of his life. kennedy was assassinated. he was not able to carry this out, but it is possible he could
have that kind of conversion experience like kennedy did after the cuban missile crisis. tavis: what role does he have pushing in that direction? is the american voter who feels least empowered to engage. and we do not feel we have enough data in front of us. we do not feel there is agency. >> in 2003 there were more protesters in the streets of the united states then there had ever been. do not underestimate the power of people to demonstrate when they are upset. i believe you could not get away with iran, but foreign policy -- nixon used to say it is always jobs, and that is what
they were talking about. nobody cares about the environment, because my job is at stake. i am a coal miner, and if you have too much government regulation, i am going to lose my job. that is the fear they always played to. they played to fear of your security and fear of the dollar, and it works every time a. >> fear of terrorism. >> there are times the public has mobilized very strongly on public policy, and the vietnam war was one of those times. we know from nixon's comments he was obsessed with anti-war protests. if bush were doing the same things, and there would be much more protests. tavis: i feel like i am just getting started. i am glad we got to discuss
this. we talked about militarism. tomorrow i want to get to the divide between the rich and poor. third, all these issues are approached in a variety of ways in this new book called "the untold history of the united states," the companion to the documentary. great to have you are. i will see you in 24 hours for part 2 of this conversation. thanks for tuning in. i will see you tomorrow night. until then, keep the faith. >> roosevelt wrote a remarkable letter in which he flatly turned down the representation. >> the democratic party has failed when it falls to the control of those who think in terms of dollars instead of human lives. until the democratic party shakes off the shackles by the
forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue the march to victory the party cannot face in both directions at the same time. therefore, i declined the nomination to the presidency. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with oliver stone and his story on -- historian peter kuznick. always the right time to do thei try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.